l nk UNION
Connecting you to your union, because together we are stronger. DECEMBER 2010
Education professionals, public employees and unions are under attack like never before. Self-
The Fight for Our Future Continued at 2010 IFT Convention UNDER THE RALLYING THEME
“Fighting for Our Future,” delegates representing IFT local unions around the state voted to elect new officers and set the union’s agenda at the statewide convention Oct. 15-17 in St. Louis. This year’s convention featured several prominent speakers, including AFT President Randi Weingarten, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and newly elected Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon. CONTINUED ON PAGE 5
proclaimed child advocacy groups like Stand for Children, misleading films like “Waiting for Superman” and many lawmakers with anti-union agendas are promoting the myth that “overpaid, underperforming union workers with lifetime job guarantees and huge pensions” are the cause of economic woes across the country.
unions will undoubtedly continue in the upcoming session of the Illinois General Assembly. We may know exactly what lies in store for us as soon as the first week of January House Speaker Michael Madigan has added an unprecedented number of days to the beginning of the House calendar next month. Though no details are available, there is speculation that proposals to modify teacher tenure, performance evaluations and seniority may be among those introduced.
That unwarranted myth persists here in Illinois. In the midst of the state’s staggering deficit, attacks on employee performance, professional rights and
There is also speculation that Madigan may finally address passing a muchneeded tax increase. The IFT and CONTINUED ON PAGE 3
What the results mean for our future
Revenue change needed to fund higher education
Council celebrates victory on PSRP Day
OUR PATH FORWARD
Reclaiming Our Profession Daniel J. Montgomery President
“HOW DO WE TAKE BACK OUR PROFESSION?” That’s a question that I have been asked more than once recently. But what does that really mean? Such a question only arises when professionals feel that they no longer control their jobs and the conditions under which they work. Is that us in the IFT? Yes. Many of our brothers and sisters will tell you that they feel beset by reformers who think they know best about what should be done to schools and those who work in them. Think about the past 10 years: No Child
formidable assault because it goes to the heart of our democracy. If America is to survive as a vital democracy, then it must have thriving public schools that provide every student with a first-rate education. Thomas Jefferson understood that and made that a first priority of our new nation 200 years ago. I do believe that we can reassert ourselves as teaching professionals and unionists as central in the debate and that we must if our democracy is going to thrive. But first
I think by far the most important bill in our whole code, is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness...The tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance. Thomas Jefferson (1786) Left Behind, the onslaught of testing, Response to Intervention (RtI), Race to the Top, charters, vouchers, underfunding of pensions, economic collapse, “value added” and new teacher evaluation plans using student test data. And now further talk of more “reform”– attacking tenure, seniority, the right to strike and more. If we feel that our profession has been under assault, can we reclaim it and, if so, how? Well, I wholeheartedly agree that education — especially public education — has been under heavy attack in our nation, and that attack persists. We must be clear — it is not just our profession that is under attack, but American public education itself. And that is a more Union Link is published six times a year in December, February, April, June, August and October by the Illinois Federation of Teachers, 500 Oakmont Lane, Westmont, IL 60559. Phone: 630/468-4080. www.ift-aft.org
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we have to understand what is happening and commit ourselves to engaging the public in all its forms. It will be up to us again to put ourselves on the line to argue for what is right for kids. And that is where we have to get better: we need to prove to the public that we have the best interests of their children at heart. I know that you cannot fathom that people would not know that or accept that as fact. But the reality is that the national conversation around teaching and schools, from preK through the university level, has successfully painted us as more concerned about our own interests than kids’. Only we can change that perception.
act of public relations, but as a simple matter of reminding the public about how public schools work. So as you go through your days in your workplaces, please remember to keep that message at the fore: what we are doing, we are doing to help kids learn. Our schools, contracts, jobs, careers and lives are dedicated to the advancement and care of the children entrusted to us. Even the most anti-teacher, anti-union forces concede to the power of caring for and loving children. You do it naturally every day; we must remind the world that that is what we do. That is why I have created a special IFT Task Force on Public Education and the Teaching Profession. The group will work with our Executive Board to engage all our various audiences and the public in general discussions about how best to serve American democracy and civic ideals through public schools and teaching. It will look for concrete ways to advance our professions and public institutions. Sometimes, our nation needs a reminder of its core values, and this is one of those times. Who better to do that than you and the IFT? In the coming days, the IFT will be talking to you and engaging our membership and the public education world in more specifics about reclaiming teaching and learning. Please stay tuned. And please share your ideas with us as to how we can move our professions forward. We need your good thinking and hard work now more than ever. Thomas Jefferson would be proud of you!
We must make the interests of children paramount in all we say and do, not as an GOING GREEN: Union Link is printed on recycled paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and printed with environmentally friendly soy based inks. © 2010 ILLINOIS FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, AFT, AFL-CIO
Daniel J. Montgomery President Chief Operating Officer Karen GJ Lewis Executive Vice President Marcia K. Boone Secretary-Treasurer
Amy Excell Publications Director Dave Comerford Media Director Beth Camplain Art Director Sandy Herbert Communications Dept. Secretary
CONTRIBUTORS Steve Preckwinkle Director of Political Activities
UNDERSTANDING THE CHALLENGES AHEAD, continued
WHAT’S ON YOUR MIND
E-mail comments and suggestions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send letters to Union Link, P.O. Box 390, Westmont, IL 60559. Please include your full name, address and daytime phone number. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.
ift-aft.org Union Buying Guide If you are considering purchasing a new vehicle, please review the complete list of high-quality, union-made 2011 models on the IFT Web site before you buy. www.ift-aft.org/news/dailynews/ 10-11-30/union-made_matters
Connect With Us Stay up-to-date on union activity by connecting with IFT through social media. We frequently post news, photos and videos and other information on our Facebook, YouTube and Flickr accounts. Visit www.ift-aft.org and select the social media icons on our home page, then bookmark our sites for easy access.
IFT Action Center Visit IFT’s Action Center and make a difference by becoming an active participant with others in policy making. www.ift-aft.org/iftactioncenter
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organizations like the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (CTBA) have long called for an increase as a critical first step in addressing the root of all the state’s problems – lack of funding. Illinois cannot adequately fund education and basic services or meet its constitutional pension obligations under the state’s broken structural revenue system and a $13 billion deficit. The result has been layoffs, drastic cuts to programs and services and attacks on pensions. When session begins in January, the IFT will advocate strongly for new revenue. Even if funding issues are addressed, tenure may take the spotlight in Springfield this session. Rhetoric from the “blame teachers” crowd continues to promote misunderstandings about tenure, despite the efforts of the IFT and other organizations to educate lawmakers and the public about this due process protection. Often perceived
The IFT knows that one of the most important things the union can offer you is professional development training to help you develop your workplace and union skills. ULI is the IFT’s program to provide members with training to help them at the workplace and in the union. ULI courses are taught by experienced union staff, most of whom are former IFT local leaders. Visit www.ift-aft.org/professionaldevelopment for a complete list of all IFT professional development opportunities.
as a lifetime job guarantee for teachers, that is not the reality of tenure. It is simply protection from arbitrary and unwarranted dismissal. Under the current law, poor performing teachers have been and can be removed from the classroom for just cause. An equally important component of tenure is that it gives experienced educators the ability to teach students to think critically about various subjects without fear of political reprisal. This helps ensure that students’ educational needs – not local politics – are the priority in the classroom. The IFT stands prepared to fight for fair funding and to protect members’ due process protections this session. Watch the IFT Web site and future issues of Union Link for updates on legislation introduced in the upcoming session and how you can help in the fight for our future. Visit www.ift-aft.org/legislative/legislativeupdate for up-to-date information on current legislation and IFT action campaigns.
One-Day Regional ULI January 22, 2011 A one-day Union Leadership Institute will be held at the Peoria Labor Temple on Saturday, January 22, 2011 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Courses Include: • Treasurer/Financial Workshop • Introduction to Collective Bargaining • Buzz Building Web Strategies • Organizing for Power • Grievance Training Registration Deadline: January 10, 2011 For more information about the January 22 mini ULI, visit www.ift-aft.org/ professionaldevelopment/uli/regionaluli or contact IFT Union Professional Development (UPD) Director Amy Alsop at 618/624-4373.
U N I O N L I N K | DECEMBER 2010
The Voters Have Spoken...
Will Lawmakers Listen? Steve Preckwinkle is director of political activities for the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
AFTER AN ENDLESS STREAM of negative
TV ads, newspaper endorsements, campaign mailers, phone calls and polls about the candidates, the 2010 election is (mercifully) over. The voters have spoken. Our voices have been heard. Or have they? Those we elected may soon make decisions on critical issues like education funding, taxes, funding public pensions and more. This would be a good time to evaluate Illinois’ election results and what they might mean for all of us in the months ahead. Let’s start with the governor. Democrat Pat Quinn was elected, against the odds. He was not known for his campaign skills and was publicly supporting an income tax increase, typically a sure 4
UNION LINK | DECEMBE R 2 0 1 0
fire way to lose an election, according to many observers. Quinn was way behind in the polls just weeks before the election and was supposed to lose in the midst of the national GOP tidal wave. He didn’t. In the Illinois General Assembly, Democrats maintained control of the House and Senate. Legislative districts are due to be redrawn in the upcoming session; Democrats will now control that process. We can assume they will draw boundaries that favor their party’s control of the legislature for the next decade. Can Quinn and the Democraticcontrolled legislature reform our state’s revenue system so Illinois can begin to pay off its gargantuan backlog of unpaid bills, stabilize our pension funds and provide revenue growth for schools and other important services? I believe they can, but it won’t be easy. Unions with members in the public sector, like the IFT, will be asked to help. Some legislators will demand
more spending cuts in exchange for their votes for a tax increase to fund education and public services. Others will insist on concessions from workers, including teachers. There will undoubtedly be plenty of politics involved in the final deliberations. But something must be done. Illinois’ debt is now the largest (per capita) in the nation. Pension systems are liquidating investments to pay benefits. Workers have been laid off or asked to take unpaid furlough days. New teachers and others hired after Jan. 1 will receive no state contribution toward their pensions. And based on our population, Illinois ranks dead last nationally in the number of state employees on hand to provide basic services to our neediest citizens and keep us safe. Voters have demanded that lawmakers solve our state’s fiscal crisis. There is no easy solution, but failure, as the saying goes, is not an option. It is time for our elected officials to make tough decisions. As IFT members, we must ensure they do.
Why are amendments and resolutions important? While constitutional amendments propose specific changes to the union’s governing document, resolutions are written recommendations about positions or actions the union should take. Resolutions are submitted for the consideration of convention delegates at the union’s convention, which is
Advocating for members and their professions Nearly 500 delegates discussed and voted on constitutional amendments and dozens of proposed resolutions that addressed issues ranging from state funding for education and public services to pensions to No Child Left Behind. Those that were passed by the delegates will direct the union’s leaders as they set policy, establish positions and allocate the union’s funding and staff resources to work on those issues on behalf of IFT members.
held every three years.
New leaders elected to take the helm
At the recent 2010 convention,
Retiring IFT President Ed Geppert, Jr. handed over the president’s gavel to Daniel J. Montgomery of the North Suburban Teachers Union, Local 1274. In his first remarks as IFT president, Montgomery rallied members to action with straight talk about the challenges ahead in Springfield and Washington, D.C. “There is no right we have that we did not fight to get. And there is no right that we have that we are not going to have to fight to keep,” he insisted.
delegates considered and voted on more than two dozen resolutions, including No. 14: Progressive Income Tax for Illinois. As adopted by delegates, this resolution officially directs the IFT to support a state constitutional amendment to create a progressive income tax structure for
“They’re coming after us…but we can’t just be angry. We have to fight hard and we have to fight smart.” In addition to Montgomery, Karen GJ Lewis of the Chicago Teachers Union, Local 1, was elected to the new leadership role of IFT Executive Vice President. Marcia K. Boone of the Southwestern Illinois Federation of Teachers, Local 6600, was elected IFT Secretary-Treasurer. All three officers were elected unanimously (by acclamation) from the convention floor. Delegates also voted to elect 40 Vice Presidents who represent all members on the IFT Executive Board. Visit www.ift-aft.org/convention for daily summaries and video highlights from the convention.
the state of Illinois.
IFT Continues Fight for
YOUR EFFORTS DURING THE RECENT VETO SESSION of the General Assembly made a difference in the IFT’s fight to protect the privacy rights of all public employees.
Joseph McDermet, CTU, Local 1, speaks to a resolution on the convention floor. Visit www.ift-aft.org/aboutIFT/resolutions for a complete list of the amendments and resolutions adopted at the 2010 IFT Convention.
In November and early December, the IFT worked with a coalition of other labor organizations to ensure that the performance evaluations of employees in state government remain private under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). House Bill (HB) 5154, the Performance Evaluations Protection Act, was passed by the General Assembly in spring 2010.
The bill prevents the disclosure of all public employee performance reviews and the personal information that frequently accompanies them. The governor issued an amendatory veto in July, however, which changed the bill to exempt only state and local law enforcement personnel from disclosure. The combination of members’ calls and e-mails to legislators and the lobbying of IFT and coalition groups resulted in a successful override of the governor’s veto in both the House and Senate. The bill will take effect immediately and will ensure that all public employees retain privacy protections and are not subject to political abuses that could have resulted from the public release of employee evaluations.
thankyou Your hard work - from letter writing to e-mails to one-on-one conversations - really pays off. Visit the IFT Action Center for a current listing of all IFT legislative action campaigns. www.ift-aft.org/iftactioncenter
U N I O N L I N K | DECEMBER 2010
Needed Close to
Higher Education Gap ILLINOIS’ $13 BILLION BUDGET DEFICIT continues to take a toll on
every aspect of public services and education across the state. The state is behind in payments to colleges and universities by nearly $1 billion. To fill the gap, many institutions have been
borrow up to 75 percent of what the state currently owes them.
may not otherwise have access to higher education.
“The state’s failure to properly fund higher education has resulted in our institutions seeking borrowing authority in order meet short-term cash flow needs,” said Nick Yelverton, IFT legislative director. “This is a clear indication that the revenue structure of the state is not adequate and isn’t providing a basic service for its citizens, which is affordable, quality higher education.”
“If the state continues down this path, we will not be able to compete in today’s economy because we will not be able to attract businesses that require a well-educated workforce,” said Yelverton. “The inability to fund higher education adequately is just another result of the overall structural revenue problems Illinois must address before it’s too late,” he added.
“ If the state continues down this path, we will not be able to compete in today’s economy because we will not be able to attract businesses that require a well-educated workforce.” Nick Yelverton, IFT legislative director
forced to increase tuition in the 2010-11 academic year; tuition increased 9.5 percent at the University of Illinois’ three campuses (Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield) and at Northern Illinois University, while going up more than 6 percent at Western Illinois University and Eastern Illinois University, Governor’s State University and Illinois State University. Some universities have been forced to borrow money to stay operational and make up for the state’s funding shortfall. A law signed by Gov. Quinn gives institutions the authority to
In the upcoming session of the General Assembly which begins in Jan., the IFT will continue to push for a much-needed income tax increase to adequately fund state services and education at all levels and to correct the state’s structural revenue deficit. The union will also work to ensure that the state fully funds the Monetary Assistance Program (MAP), as Gov. Quinn pledged to do earlier this year, but has yet to identify a funding source. MAP grants narrow the education gap between the “haves” and “have nots” by providing critical financial aid for thousands of Illinois students who
Help Preserve TaxExempt Employer Provided Educational Assistance Over the next few weeks, we’ll be witness to debates in the U. S. Congress about tax cuts. If Congress does not act on this package of tax cuts that benefit middle class Americans, an important tax benefit for millions who are seeking to further their education could expire on December 31, 2010. The Coalition to Preserve Employer Provided Education Assistance (of which the AFT is a member) is calling on members to preserve this important tax exemption.
actionalert Take a few moments to sign a letter urging Congress to preserve this crucial program for middle class families and our economy. www.capwiz.com/cpepea/issues/alert/?alertid=19414526
NEW! AFT + Member Benefits Auto & Home Insurance Buying a car and a home are likely the two biggest purchases you will make in a lifetime. Because it is important to protect these valuable assets, the AFT has joined with MetLife to provide discounted group auto and home insurance. Visit www.metlife.com/AFT and start saving today.
Credit and Budget Counseling Certified credit counselors are available 24 hours a day to help members with confidential financial guidance, free consumer credit counseling services and discounted debt-management assistance. If you have financial problems during these challenging economic times, counseling is available to help you become debt free, learn new money-management skills and save for the future. Visit www.unionplus.org/creditscore for more information and to receive 15 percent off FICO credit score reporting and free credit education courses.
For a full listing of benefits available to IFT members, visit www.ift-aft.org/benefits. 6
UNION LINK | DECEMB E R 2 0 1 0
IFTV ICES IFT Voices is a new way for IFT members to share opinions on various topics. In each edition of Union Link, we will ask a general, PreK-12, PSRP, Higher Education, Public Employees or Retiree-related question. Members
Council Has Reason to Celebrate on PSRP Day The Oak LawnHometown 123 Council of the Southwest Suburban Federation of Teachers, Local 943, celebrated Paraprofessional and School-Related Personnel (PSRP) Day on Nov. 17 with a party fresh on the heels of a hard-won victory. Just days earlier, council members ratified their first contract as a combined unit of teachers and all school staff, the culmination of the long but rewarding journey that brought them together. “With our new PSRP members comes fresh energy and a renewal of our core values of unionism,” said Elaine Barlos, council president and teacher at Oak Lawn Middle School. “We have so many talented PSRPs, and they will be as much an asset now to our unit as they are to our schools.” The council previously consisted of teachers and a small number of custodians and maintenance personnel who joined the unit in 1985. Attempts to organize remaining staff were unsuccessful over the years. But in June 2009, several months of organizing efforts eventually brought the remaining school staff into the unit, which was certified with a total membership of about 400. A tentative agreement was reached in Oct. 2010 and was overwhelmingly ratified by the membership. The council secured a multi-year contract with annual salary increases and other
improvements. Among them was health insurance for teacher aides, who will now receive the benefit for the first time. Chris Lewicki, an aide in the district for 10 years and a widow with children, says that receiving health insurance was an unimaginable relief. “I’ve had serious health issues over the last several years. I was in tears when I saw health insurance in our contract.” In addition to the health benefits PSRPs now have, they have a stronger voice on the job, too. Council Vice President Gary Cambron, head custodian at Oak Lawn Middle School, said, “Joining with the teachers makes us a voice to be reckoned with at the workplace.” IFT Secretary-Treasurer Marcia Boone, a 25-year paraprofessional, told council members and leaders that celebrating their achievements on PSRP Day was ideal. “I am proud of the bravery it took for this group to stand up and fight for the collective good of all your members, teachers and PSRPs alike,” she said. “Today you join the 16,000 IFT PSRPs to celebrate the day our state recognizes each year to acknowledge the contributions of these vitally important employees in our schools, colleges, universities and public offices statewide.”
are encouraged to post responses online at, www.ift-aft.org/speakup. We will randomly select and print some of those responses in the following months’ edition of
Union Link. All responses will be available for viewing and comment online.
BE A PART OF THE
CONVERSATION! WE LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING
WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY.
How does the work you do in your community make a difference in the lives of your students? Speak Up!
We want to hear from you. Visit www.ift-aft.org/speakup today where you can respond to this and other questions. U N I O N L I N K | DECEMBER 2010
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CONNECTING YOU TO YOUR UNION, BECAUSE TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER. Union Link newsletter joins the IFT’s membership communications lineup of the newly redesigned IFT Web site, the “Inside IFT” bimonthly electronic update and the union’s Facebook page as another tool to keep you educated and energized about your union.
The first issue of IFT's new print publication, Union Link.